Disney’s Paper Policy a Disappointment for Indonesia’s Rainforests

By Rainforest Action Network

UPDATE: On October 11, 2012, Disney announced a comprehensive paper policy that maximizes its use of environmentally superior papers like recycled and eliminates controversial sources like those connected to Indonesian rainforest destruction. For more info, visit www.ran.org/disney.

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” –Mr. Walt Disney

Books can be a great source of new ideas, inspiration, and discovery, especially for kids. Walt Disney knew this, which is why Disney stories often carry inspirational messages for kids, urging them to dream big and imagine magical kingdoms full of laughter and happiness.

That’s why it’s so tragic  that the paper policy Disney announced last week completely fails to ensure the company’s children’s books won’t continue to be made from the world’s last remaining rainforests.

The new paper policy is Disney’s response to RAN’s demand for action, and it covers the company’s U.S. publishing business, which produces 50 million books and 30 million magazines a year. That’s a lot of trees. Here at RAN we had high hopes for this policy, but, to our dismay, the policy does little for the world’s forests.

The Disney policy states that, “Disney seeks to have 100% of paper sourced for product and packaging by its non-licensed businesses be sustainable. The paper sourced will contain recycled content, be sourced from certified forests, or be of known source origin.”

RAN fully supports making books from recycled content, especially the post-consumer type — it has the smallest environmental footprint. Kudos to Disney for including recycled. Unfortunately, it’s not clear how much recycled content Disney is committing to in this policy. Are we talking 5% by 2014 or 45% by the year’s end? There’s a big difference, and that’s why we tell companies that strong policies must include numeric, time-bound goals on percentage of post-consumer recycled content — something Disney missed in its policy.

Sadly, the un-quantified recycled content may be the policy’s strongest point. When reading the fine print on “certified forests,” the policy falls even shorter. On certification, the policy states: “Disney shall accept certification documentation for recycled and virgin paper from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification Claims (PEFC), Canadian Standards Association (CSA), and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). Additional certification systems may be evaluated by Disney on a case-by-case basis.”

While variety may be the spice of life, right now only one forest certification provides even marginal assurance that environmental and socially responsible practices are being met, and that is the FSC. While other leading companies like Scholastic, Hachette, Timberland, Gucci Group, and many others include a clear preference for FSC-certified forest products in their corporate policies, Disney does not. In excluding this preference, Disney implies that all certifications are equal for the world’s forests and forest peoples. This is simply untrue. Here’s one useful comparison highlighting some key differences in certification schemes and showing that FSC performs better.

The last of the three criteria for paper products included in Disney’s paper policy is that they be of “known source origin,” meaning that they were not illegally harvested. While legality is a minimum bar, and we encourage all companies to know where their supply is coming from and ensure it is legal, legality almost never equates to environmental and social responsibility — and certainly not in Indonesia. What’s worse is that the only proof the Disney policy requires is a declaration of legality by the supplier — the party with the greatest interest in claiming the products they are selling is legal, whether that’s 100% true or not.

So what does all this mean? What does RAN really have to say to Disney?

We say live up to your own values, Disney. Your policy states that “Nature conservation is a top Disney priority.” Yet, the content of the current Disney policy does not ensure that Indonesia’s rainforests (or other endangered forests) won’t be pulped for Disney books.

Other U.S. children’s publishers, including Scholastic, Hachette, Simon & Schuster, and many others, have comprehensive paper policies and additional commitments to move away from controversial Indonesian suppliers Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) and APRIL while eliminating controversial Indonesian fiber until key reforms have been undertaken. Disney can certainly do as well as their peers.

The clock is ticking for Indonesia’s rainforests, Disney. As Walt once said, “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”